Welcome to Destination Partners

Health and Support Services for Students in Switzerland

Here’s a lowdown on the support services available for you!

The Health Systems Support Unit holds a rich diversity of expertise and is active across the six WHO building blocks in all the major world regions and Switzerland. With a core focus on primary health care development and district health management strengthening, Switzerland health centers improved the quality, accessibility, and equity for various health services.

Hospitals and emergency rooms

Most hospitals throughout Switzerland now operate as interdisciplinary units, but some older systems are still separated along with surgical care or internal medicine (Sanchez et al. 2006). The emergency room at Berne University Hospital is an interdisciplinary unit within emergency medicine, intensive care, and anesthesiology and sees all adult patients with a multidisciplinary team.

As in most other emergency rooms throughout the country, patients are classified according to their treatment’s urgency by specially trained nurses using a standardized triage model (Hallas 2006; Hollimann et al. 2011). Urgent treatment (for around 7.5% of our patients) is usually provided within one of the three shock rooms. In contrast, patients with minor complaints can be referred to as an integrated ‘fast lane,’ staffed with one general practitioner from 8 am to 10 pm every day. Discharged patients can also be scheduled to revisit this fast lane concept.


A visit to the pharmacy does not always need to be to pick up a prescription — a pharmacist is always a good first point of call for advice if you feel a bit under the weather. It can also be quite a personal experience, with most pharmacies keeping patient files on their frequent visitors.

To open a patient file, all you need to do is pay a small fee the first time you visit your chosen pharmacy. It is worth it to have all your medication information stored in one place. However, your patient file is only accessible at the pharmacy you opened it with, so if you visit another pharmacy, they will not have access to your notes.
There are two different types of medication in Switzerland; those you can only get with a prescription from a doctor, and those that are readily available can be purchased over the counter.

Roughly one-third of all medication offered in Switzerland can only be purchased if the patient has had it prescribed to them. Swiss pharmacies tend not to accept prescriptions from foreign doctors, so it is best to visit a Swiss doctor if you think you will need a prescription.

Necessary health insurance policies cover prescription medicine, but the patient still must pay 10% of the cost. Medications that are not prescription-only must be paid for in full by the patient. It may be worth bringing a supply of basic medications with you to Switzerland, as medicine prices in Switzerland are famously amongst the highest in Europe.


Most pharmacies in Switzerland are open six days a week, from Monday to Saturday. Their regular business hours are between 8:00 and 18:00 (17:00 on a Friday), and the majority are closed for lunch between the hours of 12:00 and 14:00. In the case of an emergency, there are out-of-hours pharmacies in every district. However, medicine prices are a lot higher at out-of-hours pharmacies.

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